‘The city is a jail’: Haitian journalists get word out about gang violence

Last Updated: June 21, 2024By

Reporting from the Heart of Turmoil in Port-au-Prince


Each morning, Makenson Rémy wakes up to the eerie quiet of the night, ready to narrate the harrowing tale of his broken hometown, Port-au-Prince. Every dawn brings with it a gnawing fear of the unknown. “I’m sweating bullets for the city, for my folks, and for myself too. ‘Cause any minute, I could step out and never make it back,” confessed the Haitian journalist, the voice behind the crack-of-dawn radio broadcasts that serve as a lifeline for the jittery denizens of the capital.

Navigating through the maze of barricaded streets on his trusty motorbike, Rémy braves the darkened alleys to gather intel on safe passage. Amidst the maze of concrete, he’s been a firsthand witness to spine-chilling scenes.

Just last week, while on duty for Haiti’s go-to station, Radio Caraïbes, Rémy stumbled upon “about 30 fellas packing serious heat” on the route to the airport, a path blocked off by gang warfare since the rebellion kicked off. Further up north, another gang posse caught his eye. Down south, gunshots echoed, marking the latest flare-up in a criminal uprising that’s driven nearly 100,000 souls out of the city, locking the prime minister out of his own domain.


The gravity of the situation has pushed Rémy, 47, and his wife to make a tough call—she’s set to flee to the US with one of their three kids. “Sometimes, I toy with the idea of hightailing it too,” he admitted. “But then I remember, my gig helps 3 million folks every single morning, folks who need to know if it’s safe to step out.”

With Port-au-Prince under siege and foreign scribes struggling to infiltrate, it’s fallen upon a fearless band of Haitian reporters to relay the city’s tale. Just like their counterparts in Palestine, who keep the world abreast of Gaza’s woes despite being barred, these Haitian correspondents are the unsung heroes documenting their city’s struggle.

“I tip my hat to my Haitian brethren…their bravery knows no bounds,” lauded Roberson Alphonse, the news honcho at Le Nouvelliste, Haiti’s seasoned daily.


Alphonse, 46, may be stateside after narrowly dodging death in a 2022 assassination attempt, but his heart remains tethered to Haiti. From his new digs in Michigan, he relentlessly pens and broadcasts Haiti’s woes, hoping to stir the world’s conscience. “Many a night, my dreams are haunted by visions of my homeland, tears soaking my pillow,” he confessed.

Reporters from his century-old publication stand tall amidst the chaos that’s befallen a nation accustomed to adversity, from the 2010 earthquake that rocked Port-au-Prince to the present turmoil. Jean Daniel Sénat has witnessed more despair in his decade-long career than most ever will. Cholera outbreaks. Presidential assassinations. Civil unrest painting the streets red. But nothing compares to the current nightmare.

“Now it’s a gang battleground. Chaos reigns, sparing no one,” lamented Sénat, 32, while his mother frets over his dispatches from the safety of southern Haiti. Since the 2021 assassination of President Moïse, politically aligned gangs have tightened their grip, armed to the teeth with American-made firepower. And the toll? At least five Haitian journalists have paid the ultimate price for speaking truth to power, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.


The bloodshed forced Le Nouvelliste to relocate in 2022, seeking refuge in Pétion-Ville, an upscale enclave to the south. But since the uprising began on February 29th, even this haven has been pierced by gunfire and death.

“Gangs are running amok…the city’s become a cage,” sighed Sénat, who doubles as a morning radio host on Radio Magik9. Save for his show, the station’s gone silent, staff ordered to stay clear of harm’s way, conserving fuel amidst fears of scarcity.

But Sénat remains undeterred, committed to documenting the turmoil. “This is my calling. Sure, it’s dicey—you can smell the danger. But we owe it to our people, and the world, to shine a light on the truth,” he declared.


Radio Caraïbes, a fixture for over half a century, has abandoned its longtime home. The studio, nestled near Champ de Mars, once bustling with activity, now stands deserted—a prime target for armed thugs. “Our folks…struggled to make it in,” Rémy revealed.

His early morning missions peel back the veil on Haiti’s grim reality—where gangs outnumber the police. “At 3 AM, the streets are dark, devoid of flashing lights from patrol cars. It’s like the cops are playing hide-and-seek…fearing the gang’s wrath,” he observed.

The government’s gone AWOL, with Prime Minister Ariel Henry stranded abroad since the chaos erupted. “They’re MIA. Haven’t spotted a minister’s motorcade in weeks,” Rémy noted.


Downtown Port-au-Prince, once a bustling hub, now resembles a ghost town—charred remnants of businesses, abandoned shops, a testament to shattered dreams. “Folks are at their wit’s end. Their livelihoods up in smoke. Hope? Non-existent,” Rémy somberly stated.

Yet, he soldiers on, determined to expose the horror he’s witnessed over 27 years of reporting. Come Friday dawn, he’s back on the beat, finding a rare calm amidst the chaos. Save for a looted office and a ransacked store, peace reigns—for now.

And as the day wears on, after weeks of tense negotiations, Haiti’s official gazette announces the birth of a transitional government, tasked with restoring order and charting a new course. A glimmer of hope amidst the despair, perhaps.

At Radio Caraïbes’s makeshift headquarters in the hills, a carpenter adds the final touches to the impromptu newsroom, sawdust scattered at the entrance. Inside, makeshift tables house recording gear, a thick curtain separating the broadcast area from the control room. No sign marks the spot—a testament to the uncertain times.

But Rémy remains undaunted. “We’ve been uprooted, sure. Some of us lost our homes. But we can’t lose hope. Haiti’s got heart, heaps of it. It’s just unfortunate these troublemakers fail to see the treasure we hold.”

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